“We went over backwards repeatedly and with great discipline to make sure politics did not influence any national security and homeland security decisions,” former White House chief of staff Andy Card told POLITICO. “The clear instructions were to make sure politics never influenced anything.”

“I’m a little mystified,” former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend added in an interview. “Never in my experience did I see any political influence exerted on the cabinet secretary.”…

Ridge did not respond to numerous requests for comment from POLITICO and a number of former top political and national security officials within the Bush administration declined to respond to Ridge, referring POLITICO to Card and Townsend.

“At no point when I was working with him did he express concerns about the raising or the lowering of the threat alert level,” Townsend said. “Never in my experience did I see any political influence exerted on the cabinet secretary.”